Hornets Lose a Whacky One to the Celtics

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Published: March 19, 2011

The Hornets lost to the Celtics 89-85 in a high energy affair that saw the previously red-hot Chris Paul miss every shot. David West and Marco Belinelli combined for 55 of the Hornets 85 points, but that wasn’t enough to overcome a third quarter collapse and some interesting calls.

Marco Belinelli took three of the first four Hornets shots, including a three pointer that provided the first explosion of the night from a crowd comprised of way too much Celtic Green. The team was clearly trying to get him involved early, and even though he was a bit careless with the rock, it was a good strategy. He hit three more three pointers before the first buzzer sounded, one which was obviously just a heat check, and looked like a man who knew his role in the offense. In the first quarter alone he wound up with 14 points on only 6 shots, to go with 2 steals. We can forgive the lone turnover.

Defensively he was all over Ray Allen early, and kept the struggling Celtic from getting any sort of rhythm. Allen was frustrated, and with the team unable to get him any open shots, they struggled to find any sort of offense in the first quarter.

At the end of one it was 28-14, and the Hornets were in control. Predictably, Paul sat out to start the second quarter, and the Celtics took advantage. Jack was struggling to get ball movement on the offensive end and the Hornets were forced to hoist the majority of their shots as the shot clock was winding down.

I like seeing the Jack-led unit play at a slow pace, since it obviously reduced the number of possessions the opposing team will get against them, but not when they pass open shots early on in favor of a forced shot late. That’s what happened in the first six minutes of the second quarter tonight. Two of them fell, fortunately, as the shot clock expired, but it was a real possibility that the Hornets could have scored only 4 points in the 6 minutes Paul sat the pine. As it was they were outscored 13-9.

Hornets led 51-40 at the half, and seemed in control.

The second half started off much like the first, with Marco hitting a three pointer that got the fans back on their feet. The Hornets led by 15 only two minutes into the quarter, but that would be the best things got for Hornets fans that quarter. For much of the next six minutes the standing fans were of the Celtic variety. The Hornets struggled to create on offense and the Celtics began to find their range on jumpers. Like that the lead was down to only 5.

That’s when Kevin Garnett committed his fourth foul of the game, away from the ball. Rivers elected to leave him in, and Chris Paul seemingly made him pay. He ran into Garnett, who was moving at the top of the key, but there was no whistle to be heard. Oh wait, that’s not true. Okafor was called for reasons that remain unclear right afterward. Like that, momentum remained with the Celtics. It should could have been so much different.

It was a one point game seconds later, and before you knew it, the Celtics had the lead.

Pause.

The Hornets fans got owned by the Celtic Pride in the third quarter. Owned. I give full credit to the Hornets fans when they do well, and I generally take it easy when things aren’t great, but this was a key moment in the game for the fans to make an impact. The green crowd was erupting after every Celtics possession, and it’s the job of the fans to make sure the home team knows where they are. A simple “Let’s go Hornets!” chant for a few minute would have overwhelmed the undermanned Celtic fan base, and given the Hornets a better chance of maintaining their lead.

It was one of those games that I really, really regretted my decision to switch to media. I wanted to be cheering and heckling the Celtics so bad, I could practically taste the beer in my mouth. Instead, I sat by cringing as the lead shrunk, and then ultimately disappeared.

A few more timeouts by Monty wouldn’t have hurt to slow things down.

In the fourth, when the Celtics chant was nearly as audible as the dueling Hornets one, it was another time where everyone needed to channel their inner Mikey and get loud.

Resume

Jack, Green, Landry, West, and Ariza started the fourth quarter, and after Jack was blocked immediately, Delonte West converted a three point play that put the Celtics lead at 6, and capped an 18-2 Celtic run.

A David West jumper and a sweet defensive possession by the Hornets got things back on track, but they still struggled to create without Paul on the floor. The defense was also noticeably worse when Paul rode the pine. He checked back in with 8:33 to go, and the Hornets down 74-71. CP3 assisted Ariza for a trey a minute later to tie the game at 74.

The score stood 81-76 Celtics when the David West and Nenad Krstic got tangled up and received matching technicals as a result. That little moment, which got the crowd roaring, might have been just what the Hornets needed to get back on track.

Okafor won a tip off after a controversial jump ball call (that could have easily been a foul) with 1:45 to go. The Hornets turned it over, but forced a Celtics turnover on the other end. Except not. Even though the ball clearly went off Paul Piece, RIGHT in front of an official, the Celtics maintained possession. A floater off the glass put the score at 85-81 Celtics, with 57 seconds to go.

Those strange calls wouldn’t be the last, as Paul and Ariza seemed to both tie up the ball with Paul Pierce at half court with 20 seconds left. The shot clock was at 17 at the time, so he was expecting a foul call, but since the Hornets didn’t foul he just fell down, calling timeout after landing. The problem was, the refs had called a jump ball a few possessions earlier which was nowhere near as clear. The people next to me stood up and left, proclaiming things which can’t be fully inserted here.

Glen Davis made two foul shots after the Hornets intentionally fouled him with 15 seconds left, and just like that the Celtics led by four. It took the Hornets 10 seconds to get a shot off, and 5 of them were just Chris Paul standing in place at the top of the arc.

Game over.

Okafor

On a pick and roll early in the first quarter Okafor came out on Rondo leaving Garnett open inside. There is no reason whatsoever for Mek to be coming out to cover Rondo. The guy can’t can’t shoot. If he wants to take a jumper off the dribble from 15 feet, then let him do it. All day, all night. Always and forever. Rondo made a bunch of them, but that’s going to happen sometimes.

Coming too high on the pick and roll would be one of his only mistakes on defense, as he stood toe to toe with whoever tried to get into his lane, and said NO SOUP FOR YOU! It was excellent watching him block shots, but the sheer number in which he altered was more than enough by itself. As the Celtics failed over and over to get easy buckets outside, they began to settle for outside jumpers.

It was a beautiful thing to watch the Hornets play half court defense in the first half, something that happens with increased frequency late in the regular season and the postseason. Okafor has never been the playoffs before in the pros, so I fully expect that he wants to be there for as long as possible. He works as hard as anyone, and this year he claims to be working even harder. Bravo.

His stat line was underwhelming, but he was irreplaceable inside. Offensively he really didn’t bring too much. He needed more smashes if the Hornets were going to win this one.

David West

Kevin Garnett was furious most of the night, and considering his usual demeanor is less than friendly, that’s saying something.

The reason why? David West, of course.

D-West was tuned in offensively, and there was little anyone could do to stop him. Even on the rare occasion that he couldn’t get the shot he wanted off, he delivered nice kick outs. Sometimes he struggles to find someone to pass to when he’s covered down low, but tonight wasn’t one of those nights.

West literally willed the Hornets to score early in the fourth quarter. Without him doing that, there was no way they were going to be able to get points on the board during those crucial minutes. He stopped the Celtics run, and with it, kept the Hornets in the game.

His 32 point-8 rebound effort would prove to not be enough.

Player Notes

  • Chris Paul must absolutely hate Rondo. He was attacking at 140% tonight, and even though his shooting was way way off, the way he went right at Rondo time and time again, the cross overs, the ankle breakers, and the slick no look passes that you knew were really taunts, all told us how much beating the little leprechaun matters to him. Rondo could have grabbed a number of those passes, but he was always looking the wrong way. I think that’s just how Paul intended it.
  • Chris Paul also didn’t make a shot. He threw up a floater with 2:00 to go in the fourth that was 100% essential. I was already forumulating how to write about how he made that shot as he took it. Then he air-balled it. What in the world happened to the man on fire?
  • The end of the Hornets bench was coming to their feet after every point scored, pumping their fists and playing the role of cheerleaders, something sure to be their role more often than not in the playoffs. If Mark Madsen taught me anything about basketball, it’s that the bench makes the best fans.
  • This year, our Mark Madsen will be Jason Smith. I bet he sees a few minutes, but spends most of his time being the most enthusiastic dude around. We saw him do it all game tonight.
  • Quincy will probably find himself on that bench with increasing frequency as the playoffs start. He has some nice skills, and before too long he’s might start to challenge Ariza for some small forward minutes, but right now he’s just too inexperienced, and too raw. He looked timid tonight, and what little time Monty gave him was probably too much.
  • Willie Green was lost tonight. Apparently there was too much green on the floor already. Bad jokes are the best, am I right?
  • Jack was way off all night. He needs to be better than that in games of this magnitude.
  • Rondo was OK. 9 points on 8 shots to go with 4 assists. I’ll take Paul’s O-fer  with 15 dimes over that any day. Rondo was -12.
  • Delonte West was the guy making things hard for the Hornets. He was a team high +16, and every time he stepped on the floor things seemed to go downhill.

Game Notes

  • There were 3-three second violations. Surprised?
  • A new McDonalds promotion involved dropping empty (edit- bead/coupon filled) Fillet of Fish boxes with parachutes attached to them. It would have been much more hilarious if they had been filled with fish.
  • It was Hugo’s birthday, and with it we saw a number of his friends. The fake Kings mascot took a jersey from a presumably planted Celtics fan and wiped his butt with it while dancing off the court during the first commercial break. I chuckled.
  • Why was there a Celtics mascot throwing out Hornets gear? I kept expecting Hugo to take him out, but he just never did. C’mon, Hugo!
  • When people cheat during the on court competitions, it’s always beneficial for them. Today there was just another example of it, when one guy taking part in a race decided that it would be easier to carry the ball three quarters of the way down the court instead of dribbling it. He wound up winning, of course. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- If you ever find yourself in an on-court competition, cheat. Cheat hard.

Here’s some footage of the pre-game party. There’s a guy on stilts dancing. Hopefully that’s enough to turn that frown upside down.

No? Me neither…

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